Earth News Journal 44: Canadian Pipeline Approved

The Keystone XL Pipeline, infamously predicted to slice through the United States Midwest, delivering Canada’s prosperous tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico, has acquired a particularly foul reputation among many individuals in the environmental community.

Meanwhile, a little-known Canadian oil project has recently emerged in the media as a triumph for Canada’s federal government – though a horrific assault of sacred lands for Canada’s indigenous First Nations tribes.

Entitled the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, this project would allow Canada to expand its current oil market, of which 99 percent is currently preoccupied by the United States. The pipeline would extend from Alberta’s tar sands all the way to the British Columbian coast, shuttling 525,000 barrels of crude oil in a single day to the port of Kitimat, which will be “expanded to accommodate about 220 oil tankers every year.”

As it stands, the path of the proposed pipeline would cut through territories belonging to some of Canada’s indigenous First Nations tribes, a people who are strongly opposed to such development. Terry Teegee, tribal chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, stated, “As Canadians, as British Columbians, and as First Nations, there’s just some projects out there that will never be supported. And this is one of them.”

Enbridge, the proponents of said pipeline, are fully aware of the opposition they face, in regard to the Aboriginal groups and local communities along the pipe’s predicted path. “We know we have more work to do to reengage with some of our First Nation communities along the proposed route,” Janet Holder, the Enbridge executive leading the Northern Gateway effort, said, “And we are committed to doing that work.”

In addition to confronting and negotiating with several indigenous peoples, Enbridge must pass 209 strict environmental conditions concerning the impact and building implications in order for the process to begin. Holder is confident that the efforts needed to meet those requirements can be accomplished within 12 to 15 months.

Even the British Columbian provincial government has declared five additional conditions for the pipeline construction, including “world-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems.” Despite the Canadian federal government’s approval of the pipeline, the project must still overcome several environmental safety and preliminary precautions before the first ditch can be dug. In short, environmentalists still have hope; Elizabeth Shope of the Natural Resources Defense Council believes that “the approval to begin construction for Northern Gateway is far from guaranteed, even [with] federal approval.”

Reflection

Since its inception, I’ve been strongly opposed to the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would essentially split America in two halves, severing the country by the very manmade fuel drug we seem to be so fixated on in the early twenty-first century. What puzzles me about this ‘ingenious idea’ is how the government believes the pipe can be designed as seemingly full-proof. No creation of man has ever been rendered ‘perfect,’ by any means. Buildings collapse under extreme pressures, cars explode, homes ignite – what makes the government think that this pipeline can be preserved from all destruction or human error? Because if it does erupt, explode, or leak, the consequences across the Midwestern plains could be extraordinary. The agriculture sector is already dealing with saltwater intrusions from collapsing aquifers, persistent pesticide residues that cease to disappear from the landscape, and genetically modified seeds that could disrupt future generations of crops – the last straw would be to have above-ground oil leaks from a faulty pipeline en route to the Gulf. What worries me about this new Canadian pipeline is the distance and the territory the pipe would cross. Already, North American indigenous tribes have been ousted by countless governmental movements since before our great independence from Mother England. Segregated in the far corners of the hemisphere, these First Nations tribes have attempted to live out their culture in the traditional ways; unfortunately, those seated in power have always managed to squash these peoples’ rights into minuscule grains of sand. As a global population, one that should aim to protect the beliefs and freedoms of those belonging to every culture, we must be sensitive to all peoples and their protected land and customs. How dare the Aboriginals infringe upon the Rich Man’s ideals – though this invasion of liberties has never occurred, merely the other way around. Environmental issues always revolve around some aspect of the Earth, but oftentimes these issues also concern a population, too – an animal population, a plant population, or a human population. We are a part of this great ecosystem, and so, we must learn to protect our brothers and sisters from such greed-driven, insensible propositions that could damage the world of a people and the entire world we all call home. 

Nunez, Christina. “Canada Approves Controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline: What Now?” National Geographic. N.p., 17 June 2014. Web. 3 July 2014.

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